Seaside leaders want public involved in planning new parksSEASIDE - Two-year-old Loretta Guerrero giggles with childish glee as she swings into the mild spring air at Seaside's Broadway Park.

Loretta, her mother Sugeyli Guerrero and cousin Paola Campuzano are enjoying their weekly visit to the park. They brought their lunch to eat picnic-style in the open air before playing on the swings.

Broadway Park is one of several city park areas, which also include Goodman, Quatat, Cartwright and Seltzer parks and the Wahanna ballfields. Land along the Neawanna Creek estuary is also on the list for a park-like area.

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"Hold on," says Sugeyli Guerrero in Spanish to her almost 2-year-old daughter Loretta Guerrero as she teeter-totters with cousin Paola Campuzano, 4, at Broadway Park Wednesday afternoon. The family visits the park about twice a week, says Guerrero."A park is for everyone, from the cradle to the grave," said Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District Executive Director Mary Blake. She is a member of a newly-appointed parks steering committee working to create a parks master plan.

"Parks set the whole community fabric and should be a reflection of everybody's commitment to a sacred place. Parks and nature are basically one of the best components in seeking our own understanding of our relationship to life."

But any member of the steering committee will admit that every park needs attention. The city has no real maintenance or funding plan. The steering committee hopes to remedy that. It is working with Darci Connor, a participant in the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments program and a group of students from the University of Oregon's Attend the parks workshopA public workshop about Seaside's parks and open spaces will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Seaside High School library, 1901 N. Holladay Drive. The community is invited to come voice their ideas for their parks. For more information, call Darci Connor at 738-7100.Community Planning Workshop to complete a parks master plan by June 30.

The council authorized the city to spend $20,000 to prepare the plan at its Jan. 26 meeting. The plan will allow the city to maintain and establish park services that enhance the community's quality of life. It will also help the city create a funding plan to make those services happen.

The steering committee includes Blake, council President Diana Schafer, Councilor Stubby Lyons, City Manager Mark Winstanley, Seaside Chamber of Commerce President Dana Phillips, Seaside School District Superintendent Doug Dougherty, North Coast Land Conservancy Executive Director Neal Maine and Seaside Downtown Development Association Treasurer Keith Chandler.

The group has met twice.

"It's a very diverse group of people, which is great, because when you have different points of view, you really open up the playing field," Connor said. "In the past, groups that had different interests in the parks may have shied away from talking together. This may be the first time these different groups have really come together to have these conversations."

Community involvementAn important part of planning for parks includes talking to the community who actually use them. An upcoming public meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Seaside High School library is an opportunity for the community to voice their concerns and ideas for the city's parks. The committee wants to know how, when and why the parks are used - or not used.

"The steering committee doesn't represent the entire community," Connor said. "We want people to stand up and say what's important to them. I just don't think people thought they could have a say in the parks."

Connor has felt frustration among the community about their parks. By allowing residents to take ownership and share ideas, she's hopes that feeling will quickly change.

"We're very interested in people giving their input, because they're the ones who pay taxes for the parks," Schafer said. "They're the ones who have a stake. There may be people out there who have a terrific idea that we might not think of. They'll have an investment in it."

Click on link to view the Seaside Parks Map in PDF format

The community workshop will feature an overview of the master plan's development, community discussions and informational stations about each of Seaside's parks. The stations will feature photos and a list of suggested improvements, which people may add to. A user survey will be included at each station, which asks visitors how they use LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian

Darci Connor is part of the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments program.that particular park. The information will help the steering committee tailor the master plan to reflect specific usership and future improvements of each park.

"We don't want to change a feature that people use regularly," Connor said.

The steering committee will gather public comment through a survey mailed to 1,200 of Seaside's registered voters. The survey will ask questions about park usership and demographics.

Parks fundingParks have always been a part of the city's plan to make the town livable and more enjoyable. City planning records from 1939 show an idea to create a large city park along Broadway Drive from the highway to Wahanna Road. But, partly because World War II was looming, that vision was never accomplished.

"Seventy years later, we're still trying to catch up with that vision," Connor said. "We couldn't have a park of that size in Seaside now, but we can incorporate components of that dream into the plan."

Currently, the parks are maintained by the Public Works Department, whose staff cleans restrooms, maintains the grounds and does minimal repair on park equipment. There is no specific budget for park expansion or major improvements. The city has worked with civic organizations to implement park improvements, such as the playground equipment in Goodman Park donated by the Lions several years ago, and has occasionally applied for park improvement grants.

"I think this is something the council will very definitely take a look at budgeting for," Schafer said. "We're aware of how important this is and this will be brought up in the budget process."

According to Winstanley, the city dedicated $86,000 toward basic park maintenance in this year's budget. Much of that is used to care for restrooms.

"Parks have a tendency to be the foster child of cities," he said. "Most of the time we're in the business of systems that are requirements for taxpayers, like police, water and sewer.

"Funding for parks in small cities is always very difficult. Unlike water and sewer systems where you have a capital improvement plan, people have never thought of parks as being a system. We're attempting to define parks as a system, determine its needs and then figure out what kind of capital program we'll need to have and where those capital dollars are going to come from."

Having the master plan in place will also provide a much greater chance that the city will be awarded park grants. Most granting organizations will not give money without evidence of a specific plan.

"People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan," Blake said. "All the players are getting into place and people are starting to listen. This is really a genuine, authentic effort to engage people in all sorts of ways about what parks mean. It's been a long time coming."